UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA RELAY FOR LIFE:
IMPROVING MARKETING STRATEGY
The University of Oklahoma Relay for Life Executive Committee
Stephanie Ferguson, Marketing Consultant
December 7, 2009
INTRODUCTION: OU’S RELAY FOR LIFE
Every year, thousands participate in an event that raises funds to support The American Cancer Society: Relay forLife. Today, Relay for Life is held in over “4,000 communities nationwide and seven other countries” (Aoki-Marcial, 2004).
The University of Oklahoma has participated over the years and has raised significant funds. In fact, OU Relay for Life’s Executive Committee has consistently helped OU be one of the “top events in the Big 12” (Fried, J., 2009). However, OU has had a smaller turnout withfew funds raised when compared to other campuses. Campuses in both similar sized communities and similar sized student bodies have found ways to more than double the amount of money raised as well as double the amount of student participation as OU.
This report will analyze the success and failures of other campuses’ processes and recommend an improved marketing strategy that will increasestudent participation and the amount of money raised during OU’s event.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES AT HAND?
Although OU’s Relay for Life has been successful when compared to campuses in their conference, OU has the potential to hold one of the top events nationwide. In 2008, OU raised $105,000 while the top events rose over $250,000.00, as seen in Figure 1 below.
Informationprovided by Toni L. Williams (relayforlife.org) and Kate Cunningham (OU Daily)
In 2009, OU’s event raised $80,600.00 (The Daily Staff, 2009) while the top three events raised over $349,000.00. (See Figure 2 Below)
Information provided by Erin Hendershot (MSU News) and OU Daily’s Staff
SUCCESS FACTORS FOR RELAY FOR LIFE
Duchess Marketing has discovered multiple factors that maycontribute to why OU’s Relay for Life may not be as successful as it could be. These factors are:
1. Four out of the top five events begin fundraising for their next relay as soon as the previous one has ended. OU does not begin fundraising until approximately five months prior.
2. Three out of the top five events include community members, rather than having a separate event.
3.All five of the top events hold their event in a track and field stadium, using the track for the walking course and the field for the campsites. OU uses the North Oval, which is less intimate and makes it harder to unite all participants.
4. All five of the top events hold major competitions throughout the event, as well as entertainment that include live bands and performers. OU holdssmall competitions and less live entertainment.
4 STEPS TO INCREASE OU’S PARTICIPATION AND FUNDS RAISED
Step 1: Improve Marketing Strategy
OU’s Relay for Life is always held in April, with kick-off meetings held in late-November. This only gives the students of OU five months to form teams and raise funds, putting OU at a very large disadvantage when compared to the college campuses thatare continuously raising funds throughout the year.
The University of Washington, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Georgetown University begin fundraising when the previous event has ended, allowing them to continue publicizing and asking for donations from businesses, family, and friends throughout the year.
This could create a problem in a smaller communityin which the number of businesses and resources is limited. By constantly advertising for donations, both sponsors and students could get bored with the same routine, making them less interested in the cause. Virginia Tech has developed a solution that will allow the community to have a break from their efforts: begin advertising and forming teams in September (Law, 2009).
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